Northamptonshire Police defends decision not to dip into £21m reserves to save PCSOs

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POLICE chiefs have defended a decision not to use the force’s £21 million of reserves despite a funding crisis that could see nearly 50 PCSOs lose their jobs.

Northamptonshire Police is to cut 25 PCSOs over the next four years, with Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council also set to slash their funding for community officers. Forty-seven PCSOs could be lost across the county, including 20 in Northampton.

Police bosses have urged the county council, which could cut its annual £500,000 worth of funding for PCSOs, as well as the borough council, which wants to slash £100,000 a year, to reconsider their plans before they are discussed next month.

However, the police chiefs are now coming under pressure to defend the use of their own reserves, with council leaders asking why the force is not using its own cash to pay for PCSOs.

In a report for the county’s police authority it was revealed Northamptonshire Police is sitting on reserves totalling £21.7 million, including general reserves of £9.5 million.

Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, said: “That is a vast amount of reserves. I accept that a body like the police has to have reserves but not £21.7 million. We are talking about the county council cutting £500,000 and the borough council cutting £100,000. They could fund that money from their reserves and still have more than £21 million. I don’t want to see PCSOs losing their jobs when there are millions of pounds sitting in police reserves.”

However, Northamptonshire Police said the money was already committed to other areas and said it would not be “prudent or sustainable” to use it to pay for PCSOs.

A Police Authority spokesman said: “The £21m represents a forecast level of total reserves for the Authority. However the great majority of this is committed either for capital spending, pensions, insurance, shared services investment or to support the revenue budget in future years. This future support will enable us to bridge our budget gap over the next four years without steep increases in council tax.

“The authority is committed to planning financially for future years and our published reserves strategy is a key part of this. Unfortunately, using reserves as a one-off measure to fund ongoing PCSO salaries would not be prudent or sustainable.”